Game Development Reference

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mediate combined strategies. Each smoothly defined strategy demands a

correspondingly smoothly defined response.

Smoothly defined strategies grow yomi because they allow players to

outdo one another in the nuance of their strategic knowledge. Anybody

can be told that the counter to Marines is Banelings and the counter to

Siege Tanks is Mutalisks. But only the experts know
exactly
what they

need to defeat arbitrary mixtures of Marines and Siege Tanks. What if he

has 15 Marines and one Siege Tank? What if he has eight Marines and five

Siege Tanks? What is the minimum you need to destroy him? A novice

won't know, but an expert will. This sort of fine-grained interaction is what

pushes the game's skill ceiling into the sky.

Yomi play grows from complex, difficult-to-quantify payoffs.

Different strategies have different potential payoffs. In an artificial

example, we looked at a rock-paper-scissors variant in which you get $5 for

winning with rock and $1 for winning with paper or scissors. Changing

these numbers changes the proportions of strategies players should play.

And, as you'll recall, the correct proportions are those where each indi-

vidual strategy has the same average payoff.

But what if the numbers weren't handed to us? What if strategies had

potential payoffs with qualitative effects, hooking into multiple goals, at

various levels of certainty? These payoffs aren't known ahead of time, and

they can't be described with a single number. Figuring out a good mixed

strategy is no longer just a matter of equalizing the payoffs of the various

strategies. First we have to figure out what the payoffs are. This evaluation

process maintains flow, and heightens skill ceiling.

Uncertain payoffs also mean that we need to guess how the other

player is evaluating his payoffs. If you know your opponent well, you might

find a place where he overvalues or undervalues certain payoffs and exploit

it to predict and defeat him. At even higher skill levels, you might predict

his guess at your evaluations, and so on.

Let 's go back to
StarCraft
II
. Mutalisks and Siege Tanks are expen-

sive, while Marines and Banelings are cheap. This means that for a Terran

player, shooting down Mutalisks with Marines has a better payoff than

shooting down Banelings with Siege Tanks, since the Mutalisks are much

harder to replace and the Marines are easier to make. The same goes in

reverseâ€”the Zerg wants to kill Siege Tanks with Mutalisks more than

they want to kill Marines with Banelings.

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